As the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship season finale in Brazil edges ever-nearer, Mark Webber has claimed that Lewis Hamilton will likely lift the coveted drivers' crown – and that if he does, he will deserve it.
The McLaren-Mercedes star and long-time championship leader heads to Interlagos next weekend holding a seven-point advantage over Ferrari rival Felipe Massa and – crucially – insisting he is a different driver from the one who let an identical margin slip this time last year to ultimately miss out on the laurels by just a single point in São Paulo.
Both Hamilton and Massa have suffered varying fortunes throughout the campaign, with triumph mixed with disaster, the former interspersing his peerless victories at Silverstone and Monaco with calamitous errors in both Canada and Japan, and the latter's dominant performances in Bahrain and Valencia mitigated by embarrassing showings in Britain and Singapore.
On balance, Webber argues, it is the Briton who merits the crown more – but he also points out that were the title awarded based purely on who has driven best of all 20 drivers on the grand prix grid in 2008, then the championship should go to a different competitor altogether.
“Lewis is doing a phenomenal job,” the Red Bull Racing ace wrote in his regular column for the BBC
. “He's still learning and he's only in his second year. He's out there doing his best, and when you see someone operate on his level then you've got to take your hat off to them.
“Hamilton's had a very good season. I think the best driver probably is going to win the championship, and that's how it should be. He'll deserve it if he wins it.
“For motorsport enthusiasts in Australia, his abruptness and sureness don't come across brilliantly. They would probably like to see him a little bit more humble but, on the other side of the coin, Australians like winners as well, and he's been doing a lot of winning.
“With top flight sportsmen and women, sometimes there are a few edges in there and that's the way it is throughout their career. Lewis is in his second year and is probably going to be the youngest-ever world champion, which is a phenomenal story.
“You could say, though, that Robert Kubica has been the driver of the year. He's probably been, at every single venue, the best and most consistent driver with the least errors – except for Silverstone – but, out of Hamilton and Massa, I'd say Lewis deserves the championship.”